Posts Tagged ‘identity theft’

Yahoo Confirms Data Breach, 500 Million Users Vulnerable

Monday, September 26th, 2016
Yahoo Data Breach - Ohio CPA Firm

Yahoo recently confirmed it was the victim of a large-scale data breach, which left more than 500 million users vulnerable two years ago. Read on to learn more.

Just when you think you can breathe a sigh of relief, we’re told to suck that air back in and brace for the inevitable fallout of what is now being considered the largest confirmed data breach of a single company’s computer network to date. According to officials at Yahoo, hackers gained access to more than 500 million user accounts registered with the technology company two years ago. And because so many people use Yahoo for their email, finances, fantasy sports and so on, everybody is being urged to take action immediately – before the cybercriminals have a chance to exploit the stolen data.

Read Also: Cloud-Based Data Storage Solutions Aren’t Risk-Free

Why Worry?

Depending on the type of information you have stored on your user account, there are all kinds of dangers associated with this type of data breach. Yahoo officials confirmed that hackers successfully gained access to user names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, encrypted passwords and, in some cases, security questions.

If you are one of those people who use the same password across all your online accounts, the recovery process will be difficult. Changing your Yahoo password is only the first step in the recovery process. Because cybercriminals can use the information collected to attempt to log in to other websites, you will also need to comb through your other online accounts to make sure they remain secure.

In the meantime, consider utilizing the following password best practices.

  • Change your passwords quarterly – especially those that protect your email accounts, domain logins and online banking accounts.
  • Use passphrases with at least 12 characters consisting of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Never share your passphrases with others and, if you enter your passphrase on a public computer, change it once you are able to log on to your account from a secure location.
  • Use two-step verifications whenever they are available.

Think Before You Click

In addition to maintaining your passwords by taking advantage of the best practices listed above, stay vigilant when it comes to email safety. In particular, consider every unsolicited email and communication you receive as untrustworthy. A single click of the mouse can open up the flood gates and can leave your company’s network vulnerable to a myriad of cyber threats.

By Steve Roth, IT Director (New Philadelphia office)

Check out these article for even more password tips:

8 Tips For Crafting A Strong Password

Passwords Are Like Underwear …

Then And Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

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Protect Yourself From Fake Charity Scams

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making A Donation

Charity Scams - Ohio CP A Firm

Would you be able to spot the charity scam? Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to ask yourself a few questions. Read on to find out which ones.

From identity theft and tax fraud to criminals finding ways to hack into your company’s network, we are learning every day that it’s simply not safe to let your guard down – for anyone or anything. Unfortunately, that mindset should apply when you are considering gifting a charitable donation as well.

Some fraudsters, in an attempt to prey on the generosity of strangers, have begun to solicit funds for fake charities particularly during and immediately after tax season. But you can shut down these scams by asking yourself these critical questions.

Read also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Is this the charity I know and love or is it a spin off?

We are a sucker for the brands we know and love, and criminals will invoke similar names, attributes, branding to trip you up and get you to write that check. Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to conduct a quick search online to remove all doubt. Two resources to consider are:

  • The Exempt Organization Select Check Tool – this search tool is designed to help you determine the legitimacy of the not-for-profit in question by providing users with information about the organization’s federal tax status and filings.
  • Guidestar – this online resource is great for users who want to find out about the validity of tax-exempt organizations as well as other faith-based nonprofits, community foundations and other groups that are typically not required to register with the IRS.

Do nonprofit organizations ask for personal information?

Don’t make it easy for a fraudster to steal your identity by willingly providing them with your Social Security Number. Legitimate nonprofit organizations will never need your SSN to complete a transaction and they should never need to retain any of your personal information for their records – this includes passwords.

Should my donation be in the form of a check or is it OK to give cash?

Yes! For your own security, and tax purposes, be sure to establish a paper trail. The best way to do this is to avoid making any type of cash donations. Instead, every time you give money to a charity, consider using a check or credit card to establish proof of the transaction. Not only is it important to establish a paper trail as a safety measure, it will help you when to go to claim the contribution on next year’s tax return.

I’m still not sure if it’s a valid nonprofit organization?

If the questions above don’t provide you with the reassurance you need, reach out to a trusted advisor who can help you identify whether a particular charitable organization is reputable or not while giving you pointers to help you protect your hard-earned dollars as well as your identity.

 By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

Check out these articles to learn to learn about other fraud scenarios taxpayers should know about.

Stop Criminals From Hijacking Your Identity With These Top 5 ID Theft Prevention Posts

Then & Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

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Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

Friday, March 4th, 2016
Identity Theft | Refund Fraud | Ohio CPA Firm

The best thing to remember when it comes to protecting your business, and yourself, from becoming a victim of fraud is that if something seems a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking out before you act. Read on to learn about the newest threat to your identity.

Over the last few years, the threat of refund fraud and identity theft has become a very real concern, and criminals have proven that they will go to great lengths to get the information they need to complete their scams. This recent phishing scam is no exception.

Read Also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Criminals Phish HR, Payroll Departments

The IRS recently alerted payroll and human resources professionals of an “emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees.” The scam has already claimed several victims.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that this particular tactic appears to be “a new twist on an old scheme.” These cyber criminals are using the cover of tax season to trick people into sharing confidential data.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” said Koskinen. “Everyone has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

According to the IRS, a criminal investigation is already in place and several cases in which people have been tricked into sharing social security numbers and other sensitive information with criminals are being reviewed. Officials report that criminals regularly use the stolen personal information to file fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

Remind Employees To Remain Alert

To avoid becoming a victim of this particular scam, encourage your employees to pay close attention to emails that contain the following information:

  • The actual name, title and contact information of somebody in the company

o   Oftentimes, criminals will use the name of the company’s CEO to enhance the message’s legitimacy.

  • A request to provide sensitive information, including:

o   The names of employees along with their Social Security Numbers, date of birth, address, and/or salary

o   A PDF of an individual’s 2015 W-2 or an earnings summary of all the company’s W-2s.

Other Scams Abound For Businesses, Individuals

Unfortunately, businesses appear to have seen an increase of cyber attacks – especially over the last year. Last June, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the FBI and the United States Secret Service issued a fraud alert in response to a scam dubbed the “Business Email Compromise,” in which fraudsters compromise “legitimate business email accounts for the purpose of conducting an unauthorized wire transfer.”

Also, in response to a nearly 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents so far during this tax season, the IRS also renewed its wider consumer alert for email schemes. These emails are designed by scammers to trick taxpayers into believing they are being sent directly from the IRS, other tax industry professionals and/or software companies.

The best thing to remember when it comes to protecting your business, and yourself, from becoming a victim of fraud is that if something seems a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking it out before you act.

By Ashley Matthews, CPA (Dublin office)

Want to take steps to ensure that you won’t be a fraud victim this year? These articles feature information that can help.

How can you protect yourself from tax fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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Ohio’s Identity Theft Quiz Returns – With Modifications

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Last year, Ohio’s Department of Taxation rolled out the Identification Confirmation Quiz, which required many Ohioans to prove their identities before receiving a refund. Needless to say, there were more than a few unhappy campers. However, despite its shortcomings, the quiz did what it was supposed to do – helped thwart tax fraud, which is why the Ohio tax quiz will make another appearance in 2016.

Read Also: How To Recover From Identity Theft & Tax Fraud

So, how successful was the quiz at stopping fraudsters from stealing refunds? Very. One Ohio news source reported that the quiz helped identify an estimated 234,336 fraudulent refund requests worth $259.1 million in 2015. The year prior, only 64,693 requests were reportedly stopped.

“We are committed to combating tax fraud and ensuring that tax refunds are paid only to legitimate filers,” said Joe Testa, Ohio tax commissioner, in an op-ed piece on the Ohio Bar Association’s website on Jan. 6. “We believe we’re among the leaders in the country in aggressively combating these fraud schemes. Last year, the Identity Confirmation Quiz was instrumental in that fight.”

Testa did go on to say that, after reviewing feedback from last year’s tax season, changes were made to the types of questions asked in an attempt to improve the entire process while facilitating a better experience overall. He said that further improvements were made to the department’s tax return analysis, which should result in fewer taxpayers from being required to take the quiz in order to receive a refund.

Tax fraud and identity theft continues to be a major problem throughout the nation, but you don’t have to stand by and do nothing. This article will provide you with some tips to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want more safety tips to help get you through tax season unscathed? Check out these articles:

Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Let’s Talk About The F-Word

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Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Income tax identity theft and refund fraud has become a huge problem over the last few years; and while billions of dollars are finding their way into the pockets of fraudsters, the IRS is working hard to shut down these schemes.

The IRS paid roughly $5.8 billion dollars in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves over the course of the 2013 filing season. While that is a huge number, it could have been a lot worse. During the same time period, the amount the IRS successfully prevented or recovered totaled around $24.2 billion. But these statistics only take into consideration the fraud we know about.

Identity theft isn’t just a threat during tax season, scammers are exploiting a lot of cracks in your armor. Listen to episode 12: the great data saver on unsuitable on Rea Radio for insight from Joe Welker, CISA, Rea’s IT Audit Manager

The Unknown Number

While it is nice to know that the IRS is working hard to prevent identity theft and refund fraud, the truth is that we don’t yet have all the information to determine how bad the income tax fraud epidemic really is. This means that we continue to be at risk of becoming a fraud victim again this tax season. Perhaps if we knew how many fraudulent tax returns went on to be processed and how many billions of dollars were paid out to scammers looking to make a quick buck we could finally make some educated assumptions about the likelihood of being defrauded out of your refund check.

I don’t like not having all the necessary information.

Read Also: Ohio Department of Taxation Stops Thieves From Stealing Millions

This year, income tax fraud is expected to be higher than ever. This video, produced by abc6 out of Columbus, Ohio, shines more light on the topic of identity theft in Ohio.

Calling In Reinforcements

The IRS has realized that identity theft and refund fraud are threats that are showing no signs of going away. So the agency has requested help. The Internal Revenue Service, in cooperation with state tax administrators and tax industry leaders, has formed a public-private sector partnership to identify and test more than 20 new data elements on tax return submissions that will be shared with the IRS to detect and prevent fraudulent filings. The software industry is doing its part by putting enhanced identity validation requirements in place to protect customers and their personal information from identity thieves.

As of October 2015, 34 state departments of revenue and 20 tax industry members have signed memorandums of understanding regarding coalition’s roles, responsibilities and information sharing measures. More states are expected to sign on later.

Taxpayers Are Encouraged To Fight Back Against Fraud

Over the last 3 years, the IRS has initiated more than 3,000 fraud investigations. Those investigations have gone forward to convict and sentence close to 2,000 thieves to around 40 months in prison apiece. But there is still much to be done. They are doing their part.  We as taxpayers have to do ours.

In January, the IRS launched the “Taxes. Security. Together.” initiative to educate taxpayers on income tax identity theft and ways they can safeguard their information and protect themselves. According to the agency, there are several ways you can protect yourself from identity theft – especially during tax season:

  • Keep your computer secure
  • Avoid phishing email and malware
  • Protect your personal information

Above all, choose your tax preparer wisely and make sure they take their responsibility to safeguard your information very seriously. A tax preparer can also help if you do encounter a situation in which your information could be compromised.

By Ashley Matthews, CPA (Dublin office)

Want to take steps to ensure that you won’t be a fraud victim this year? These articles feature information that can help.

Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

How can you protect yourself from tax fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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Dude, You’re Getting … Hacked

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Could Your Computer Make You A Target For Fraudsters?

Dell Computer Hack | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Learn how to keep your computer safe from this new scam.

There is a new scam making the rounds and if you have a Dell computer you could be at risk.

KnowBe4 recently published a blog informing users of the newest security issue, which has apparently left owners of Dell computers vulnerable to scammers who have been able to capture their computer’s unique tag ID (the unique sticker on your desktop or laptop) from Dell’s database.

Read Also: WARNING: Tis The Season To Practice Safe Online Shopping Habits

Fraudsters proceed to call potential victims and attempt to gain access to their personal computer by claiming that there is a problem with their computer – the stolen information is then used to establish credibility. Once the fraudster convinces their victim to grant them remote access to their desktop or laptop to “fix” the problem, the scam is complete and the security of your personal information has been compromised. In other words, your personal information (such as credit card numbers, banking information, Social Security number, contact information, etc.) is no longer personal.

Dell has said that the company is investigating the issue but, at this time, offers little to no explanation for the alleged breach. Rather, the company is quick to point customers to this October 2, 2015 post advising of tech support phone scams.

According to the KnowBe4 blog post, this scam is similar to a Microsoft tech support scam where fraudsters call PC users with a similar request – to be allowed to gain remote access to a computer to fix an alleged problem.

“End-users gullible enough to give access to their workstations (usually via remote software), are billed hundreds of dollars on their credit card but the scammers, of course, don’t fix anything – in some cases their PC’s are infected with ransomware until they pay up.”

Protect Yourself

This is a great time to educate yourself and your employees about ways to keep your company’s data, computers and other devices safe. For example, if you do get a suspicious call, refrain from providing any information to the caller. Instead, insist that you will call them back. When you do return the call, use a phone number you know to be accurate or visit the company’s website for the phone number. Never call back the number that shows up on your caller ID. Another way to determine if the number is legit is to search the number in Google. This is a fairly accurate way to determine the validity of the call.

Have you been a victim of identity theft? Read on to start recovering today.

It seems that a new scam pops up every week. Fortunately, education and a little common sense is the key to your ensuring your safety.

Would you like help putting controls in place to protect your business from becoming victimized by a opportunistic hacker? Email Rea & Associates and request to speak with a member of our IT audit team. For more tips and insight, take a look at the related articles below,

By Steve Roth, IT Director (New Philadelphia office)

Want more security tips for your business, check out these posts:

Stop Criminals From Hijacking Your Identity With These Top 5 ID Theft Prevention Posts

Then And Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

Who Is That Email Really From?

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National ID Theft Awareness Month: Get in the Know

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Stop Criminals From Hijacking Your Identity With These Top 5 ID Theft Prevention Posts

ID Theft Awareness | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Identity theft is a scary thing and you don’t want to become a victim. Take some steps now to protect yourself in the future.

December is National ID Theft Awareness Month and the fraud prevention team at Rea is a wealth of information when it comes to sharing great tips to help taxpayers protect their identities from fraudsters. Instead of scrolling past posts in our expansive article library or award-winning blog, we’ve compiled this Top 5 list to make your search for information easier. Read on to discover how you can prevent cyber criminals from hijacking your identity all year long.

Read Also: Let’s Talk About The F-Word

  1. WARNING: Tis The Season To Practice Safe Online Shopping Habits: While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, cyber criminals are looking for ways to stuff their own stockings – at your expense. The holiday season is also a busy time of the year for scammers because, in general, more money is being spent and more people are clicking through cyberspace for the best deals and tracking their purchases. Find out what you can do to keep your identity safe this Holiday season.
  2. Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You: Fraudsters don’t take holidays. In fact, they tend to be more active this time of year because they believe we are more likely to let our guards down. I don’t intend on falling for any of their traps, and I encourage you to do the same.
  3. Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones: Researchers and IT security experts from ESET, a global IT security company, recently announced that they had discovered a malware application that is designed to encrypt files and change PINs on Android devices in the United States. In return, victims are demanded to pay up to the tune of $500. Only then will hackers provide users with the recover key. Keep reading to learn how you can protect yourself.
  4. Should I Still Be Concerned About Identity Theft And Tax Fraud?: Identity theft and tax fraud are problems that show no signs of stopping. In 2015, in an attempt to provide an added layer of protection, taxpayers in Ohio had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (ODT) newest fraud safety measure – the Identification Confirmation Quiz. Read on to see how this quiz has helped reduce fraud in Ohio.
  5. How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud: Suspecting, and then confirming, that you’ve had your identity stolen is a nightmarish scenario. It combines one of your worst fears, losing your wallet or purse, with all of the work of replacing the things that were lost. It can be so overwhelming you might be wondering: “Where do I even start?” We can help you answer that question.

Identity theft is a scary thing and you don’t want to become a victim. Take some steps now to protect yourself in the future.

Want to learn more about keeping your identity safe? Email the team at Rea & Associates, our fraud prevention specialists can be an important of keeping your information protected.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

Looking for tips to secure your business from fraudsters? Check out these posts:

Fraudulent Credit Card Transactions Will Become Merchant’s Problem On Oct. 1

Who Is That Email Really From?

Businesses Beware: Sloppy Data Security Could Cost You

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Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

This article was published in the July 2015 issue of Columbus Business First – Ask The Expert.

Identity theft and tax fraud are problems that show no signs of stopping. This year, in an attempt to provide an added layer of protection, taxpayers in Ohio had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (ODT) newest fraud safety measure – the Identification Confirmation Quiz.

fraud_small

We hear about cases of fraud every week, but steps are being taken to slow it down and ultimately stop it.

While you may have heard your friends and family comment (perhaps unfavorably) about this added step, government officials have said that the quiz helped thwart countless attempts to steal refund checks from Ohio taxpayers this year. During the 2014 tax season, fraudsters pocketed more than $250 million worth of taxpayer refunds, prompting the need for additional safety measures. Due to its success, the ODT expects the quiz to become a mainstay of your tax prep routine.

But just because tax season is over, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down – quite the contrary. When it comes to protecting your identity, you must remain vigilant. Whether you are aware of it or not, criminals are still looking for ways to steal your personal identification information for a myriad of uses.

Do you know what to do if your ID is compromised? Visit www.reacpa.com and click on the “Tools” button in the top navigation bar. From there, you can read our compilation piece How to Recover from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud for more insight and information that can help you recover from identity theft and tax fraud.

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How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Have you been (or suspect you’ve been) a victim of identity theft and refund fraud? Rea & Associates recently compiled a variety of information that will help you recover from this nightmarish scenario.

Suspecting, and then confirming, that you’ve had your identity stolen is a nightmarish scenario. It combines one of your worst fears, losing your wallet or purse, with all of the work of replacing the things that were lost. It can be so overwhelming you might be wondering: “Where do I even start?”

An increasing number of identity thefts are first identified when a thief attempts to file a tax return on your behalf and claim a federal or state tax refund. To help you navigate some of the issues you may be confronted with, we recently released a compilation of documents and resources.

The documents that are included are intended to help you navigate some of the issues you may be confronted with if you find that you’ve been an identity theft and fraudulent tax return victim.

Read “How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Beat The Identity Thieves

The guidance includes a variety of valuable information for those who have been (or suspect they’ve been) a victim of identity theft and refund fraud. The following is a brief synopsis of information included in this guide.

The IRS has provided a short list of items for you to complete, which is substantially similar to the items the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) covered in its longer, checklist-style guidance.

  • The primary item to complete for the IRS is Form 14039 which initiates the IRS fraud protection procedures.
  • Also included is a form letter, one of several, the IRS may send to a taxpayer if tax return fraud is suspected to be occurring on the account.
  • The IRS has published a number of articles related to identify theft and how to protect yourself. A master page with links to all these topics is included in this packet. You may also check out some of our recent articles on the topic, which can be found in the “Related Articles” portion of this post.

The process of reporting fraud in Ohio is similar to the IRS procedures.

  • Ohio also sends form letters to the taxpayer.
    • Ohio recently added an identity quiz for roughly 50 percent of taxpayers requesting a refund. This letter simply asks the taxpayer to complete a quiz specifically used to prove their identity. Note: This request doesn’t indicate that your identity has been stolen (unless you haven’t filed your tax return for the year yet).
    • If the Ohio Department of Taxation suspects fraudulent activity on the account, the taxpayer will receive a second letter that will indicate these suspicions.
  • Ohio includes an affidavit (Form IT TA) that must be filled out to initiate their protection procedures, similar to Federal.

The FTC is the primary federal government agency dealing with identity theft.

  • The FTC has put together a very detailed, checklist to help you with the identity theft process. The guidance includes information on most forms of identity theft – of which tax identity theft is just one. While this may be more information than you need, if the fraud has gone beyond your tax returns and includes false credit activity (or you are concerned this may happen), this guide will be very useful for you.
    • The guide includes a wealth of information, such as sample letters and a variety of websites and contact information to relevant organizations that can help you. It also guides you through the process of making a police report in response to the theft of your personal information.
  • Note: The IRS and the FTC generally do not share data with each other. Therefore if you have completed the IRS identify theft notification procedures, don’t assume that the FTC, credit bureaus, etc., are also aware of your situation.

Check Your Mail, Not Your Caller ID

Remember, the first contact taxpayers will have with the IRS regarding any issue will be in the form of an official mailed letter – not a phone call. These scammers appear to be determined to steal your money and/or your identity and reports of these types of scams continue to be on the rise. By educating yourself, your friends and your family, you are taking a proactive stance against these criminals.

If you would like to learn more about how you can protect yourself against, and recover, from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud, click here to view our compilation of documents and resources. You may also email Rea & Associates for more information.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office) and Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Update: Ohio Tax Quiz Appears To Be Working

Friday, March 13th, 2015
Tax ID Quiz

According to officials at the Ohio Department of Taxation, while the new Identification Confirmation Quiz may be a pain in the neck, it appears to be working as a identity theft deterrent – Rea & Associates – Ohio CPA Firm

We have learned over the last month that Ohio’s new system of validating taxpayer identification, the Identification Confirmation Quiz, appears to be working.

In an effort to boost security and prevent tax-fraud in the state, the Ohio Department of Taxation introduced the quiz at the onset of the 2015 tax season and began flagging tax returns with data points that are inconsistent with public and commercial data sources. If their returns are flagged, taxpayers are required to take a Quiz to prove their identities.

Read: Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio

“Through Feb. 18, more than 1.3 million tax returns have been filed with about 874,000 requesting a state income tax refund. About half of the refund requests have been selected for additional screening to ensure that they were not filed by an I.D. thief,” stated Ohio’s Tax Commissioner Joe Testa in a press release. “About 97 percent of taxpayers taking the quiz are passing. That proves they are who they say they are.”

That means about 3 percent who fail the test are being declined to receive refunds that they would have normally received in previous years. As long as that 3 percent consists of actual identity thieves, the results reported are significant.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia Office)

 

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Is It A Charity Or A Scam?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Remember when writing a check to a charity left you with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment? Unfortunately that feeling has been replaced with vulnerability and uncertainty as soliciting for fake charities has become a common way for scammers to prey on the generosity of strangers.

Remember when writing a check to a charity left you with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment? Unfortunately that feeling has been replaced with vulnerability and uncertainty as soliciting for fake charities has become a common way for scammers to prey on the generosity of strangers. Before you tear that check from your checkbook, take another look at the “Pay to the Order Of” line. That person who just spent the last 15 minutes explaining why your donation is critical to their organization might have less-than-admirable intentions.

Every year the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns taxpayers about what it considers to be the “Dirty Dozen” of tax scams. The annual report identifies schemes that appear to be more prevalent during filing season. And while you may be inclined to use some of your refund to help a worthwhile charity, the IRS reminds taxpayers to remain vigilant against scammers “masquerading as a charitable organization to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors” – particularly this time of year when scammers appear to be more active.

If you are approached by somebody who claims to be soliciting money for charity, here are a few tips to ensure that your money will be used for a worthwhile cause.

What’s In A Name?

Sometimes fake charities will adopt a name that’s similar to one you are sure to recognize and consider to be a respected organization within your community or nationwide. Even if you are confident that the not-for-profit you are about to donate to is reputable, a quick online search can remove any doubt. The IRS provides access to a search tool designed to help the public identify valid charitable organizations. You can also find registered 501(c)(3) organizations on Guidestar, an online tool that provides users with data and information about tax-exempt organizations and other faith-based nonprofits, community foundations and other groups typically not required to register with the IRS.

Keep Personal Information Private

Nonprofit organizations do not need your Social Security Number to complete the transaction, nor do they need to retain it for their files. So if someone claims to represent a charity and asks for any of your personal information (including passwords) – don’t give it to them! Scammers use this information to steal their victim’s identity. Protect yourself from fraud and remember to keep your personal information private.

Where’s The Proof?

When you make a decision to donate to a tax-exempt organization, make sure to have proof of the transaction. For your own security – and for tax record purposes – you should never make a cash donation. Use a check or credit card every time you give money to charity. Doing so not only proves that you made the donation; it will help you claim the contribution on next year’s tax return.

Ask An Expert

A trusted advisor can help you identify whether a particular charitable organization is reputable or not and can help you make the most of your donated dollars. Email Rea & Associates for more information.

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Related Articles:

Beware Of Small Business Wire Transfer Scam

When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio

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How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

“Interested in credit card theft? There’s an app for that.”

Those were the recent words of Gunter Ollmann, a technology security consultant. To Mr. Ollmann’s point, identity theft is getting easier and easier to perpetrate. Identity thieves are using the internet to find victims and steal their private data.  But, the use of technology swings both ways; consumers are increasingly using it to protect themselves and their identities.  Here are some on- and offline steps you can take to protect yourself from those trying to gain access to your data: (more…)

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Did a not-profit’s tax return compromise your identity?

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

A new study by Identity Finder shows that 18% of non-profit organizations have published social security numbers on their Form 990 tax returns.

But, we all put our social security numbers on our tax returns.  So, what’s the big deal?  Unlike personal income tax returns, 990s are available to the public.  They’re regularly published by the IRS and shared with various grant-making organizations and the public.  Non-profits use 990s for a lot more than just filing taxes – often they submit copies of 990s with grant applications and make them available to donors.  A 990 can tell you a lot about the financial health of an organization; they’re considered the industry standard financial snapshot for non-profit organizations. (more…)

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How can you protect yourself from tax fraud?

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Tax identity theft is an increasingly enormous problem. The IRS has been bombarding us with warnings of identity theft and scams this tax season.

Here’s a summary of some of the latest information you should know. (more…)

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Do Red Flag Rules apply to Physicians, Attorneys or Accountants?

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

The identity theft protection measures known as the “Red Flag Rules” will not apply to physicians, attorneys and accountants, thanks to legislation passed by the US Congress and signed by President Obama in late December 2010. (more…)

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Have Red Flag Rules been delayed again?

Friday, July 30th, 2010

At the request of several members of Congress. the Federal Trade Commission has delayed the compliance deadline for “Red Flag” rules, which require businesses to implement anti-identity theft policies. Originally scheduled to become effective January 1, 2008, the rules have been granted a series of extension by the FTC. The latest moves the deadline from June 1, 2010, to December 31, 2010. (more…)

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Should I worry about Red Flag Rules?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

On June 1, the Federal Trade Commission begins enforcing “Red Flag” rules, which require businesses to implement anti-identity theft policies. Created through Fair and Accurate Credit Act of 2003, the regulations require businesses that extend credit to consumers to develop a written policy that identifies warning signs and suspicious activities (i.e., red flags) of possible identity theft, and tactics to address and prevent it. If your business defers payment for goods or services, you must follow the Red Flag rules. (more…)

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